After an exhilarating win in the wee hours of the morning, after a tense and action-packed weekend, we probably should have seen the letdown coming. All that emotion is impossible to sustain and so often after such highs there’s a crash. Last night, the bats suffered that crash.
Any high-flying embers that the club might have still had glowing were quickly doused by John Gant‘s plodding first inning. Gant was behind the eight ball from the very first batter, walking Joe Mauer on six pitches then throwing a wild pitch while facing Brian Dozier. After that, Gant’s pace slowed significantly, which might have been manageable had he been consistently throwing strikes. Instead, it felt like every at-bat was an eternity. Even though he only faced six batters in the frame, which isn’t that much of a stretch, he threw 26 pitches and took (at least it felt like) half an hour. The fact that the Twins scored twice in the inning was probably the last dash of cold water on any potential stoking of the fire.
Maybe it’d have been different if Dexter Fowler‘s fly ball in the bottom of the first, with Matt Carpenter having drawn a leadoff walk, would have been a half-foot deeper. A tying home run like that might have jump-started folks or at least put a little doubt in Fernando Romero‘s mind. Instead, Eddie Rosario caught it at the wall, Marcell Ozuna struck out, and for all intents and purposes that was the ball game. The Cardinals never really threatened again, at least not to win the game. They had a couple of chances to break the shutout but even those eluded them.
Granted, the Cards do this at times–get you excited about wins only to completely shut down right after–but I think the circumstances around this outing make it more understandable. However, it may depend on how charitable you want to be toward the club. Afterall, like I said, it’s not like this is a completely out-of-the-blue phenomenon. There could be some roots somewhere.
Have to give the Hero tag to Paul DeJong, who had three of the four Cardinal hits (Harrison Bader had the other). On the Goat side, I don’t really know. Carpenter had a walk, but struck out twice and flew out. I believe Dan mentioned he was 2-20 in the leadoff role before that flyout, so obviously moving him to the top of the lineup isn’t the panacea we were hoping for, at least in regards to him immediately clicking. Kolten Wong went 0-4, which was pretty bad timing given the folks from Birds on the Black were doing a fundraiser for Hawaii based on his results. Gant settled in after that first inning and “kept the team in the game”, assuming they could have hit.
I think I’m going to go ahead and give the Goat to Marcell Ozuna though. He did draw a walk, one of only three the Cards had, but he struck out three times. I think at least one of those was an expanded zone from the umpire, so this could be a little unfair, but you’ve got to choose someone due to our arbitrary rules and pretty much you could throw a dart and hit a worthy candidate.
With Bud Norris, Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons, and Sam Tuivailala definitely unavailable last night, the Cards needed innings out of Gant and he made it 5.1, which is better than you would have expected after such a laborious first. Matthew Bowman came in and got through the rest of the sixth and the seventh in solid fashion before Ryan Sherriff came in and put the game out of reach by allowing two runs in his frame. Luke Gregerson looked pretty sharp finishing the game off, though. There’s no doubt the off day tomorrow is going to be really, really helpful.
What also should be helpful for the bullpen is that Carlos Martinez is going today. Except for that first start in New York–a qualifier that probably will be around all year long–he’s gone at least six innings in every game and seven or more in half of them. If we get the Martinez we’ve been seeing as of late, the bullpen shouldn’t have too much to worry about. Assuming the bats wake back up, at least.
Afternoon baseball at Busch. Should be a wonderful day!